Tuesday, May 19, 2015

John Armstrong misses difference between child poverty and material deprivation

John Armstrong writes about Thursday's budget:

Sunday's announcement has provided breathing space for those Budget items still under wraps which Key and Bill English will want to highlight on Thursday without unwanted distractions. That includes measures to tackle "material deprivation" - bureaucrat-talk for "child poverty".

He's wrong. "Material deprivation" and "child poverty" are distinct.

Material deprivation is measured by asking people what they are going without.

Child poverty measures how many children live in households at 60 percent or less of the median (equivalised) household income. Thousands of these children are not suffering material deprivation because as low as their parental incomes are, they are still enough. Their parents may have very low outgoings or have savings. For many falling below 60% is a temporary circumstance. Here is the "bureaucrat" explanation:

Understanding material deprivation in New Zealand
A second approach, rather than using income thresholds, is to measure poverty using
self-reported measures of risk or deprivation from the General Social Survey.Evidence suggests that income measures do not map well onto the experience of having to go without. While less than half of the children in low income households are also found to be in households that are in deprivation.

You'll have noticed the PM attempting to focus on the number in material deprivation rather than the number in child poverty. That indicates to me that any budget solution will not be a mere transfer of money.

If the government is watching the public response to a petition calling for benefits to rise they will know they are on the right track politically. The target was 100,000 signatures by Budget Day. Just over 11,000 have signed on-line.

Any additional resources should be tightly targeted at children known to be struggling.

The Ministerial Committee on Poverty made the following recommendations:

• Increasing the provision of “full-service” early childhood centres, in which a range of
services (early childhood education, health, welfare, budgeting, parenting support) are co-located.
• Additional programmes and resources for schools to provide a higher level of intensive support for some disadvantaged and under-achieving children is probably worth further attention. For example, the early identification (most likely between the ages of 3 and 7) and referral to effective programmes of children with conduct disorders.
• Reviewing home visitation programmes and focussing on those which are shown to be effective e.g. Nurse Family Partnerships and Early Start (see Gluckman (2011) for further information).

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